Although its fan following may not be as massive as some of today’s horror and fantasy franchises, during the late 1960’s and 1970’s, Dark Shadows was the premier horror series on television. Yet, while it may now be a niche franchise, the series continues to have devoted fans who still love the dark drama surrounding the cursed Collins family. Although Dark Shadows has had a sort of renaissance of popularity due to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s 2012 film, long-time fans of the series have been very vocal of their disappointment with the results of the big screen treatment. However, Dynamite Entertainment has been making up for the film’s mistakes by giving the fans exactly what they want – Dark Shadows the way they remember it.
Best known as the creator of fan favorite DC Comics character Manhunter, writer Marc Andreyko has been one of the driving forces behind Dynamite Entertainment’s Dark Shadows books. Starting with last year’s off beat Dark Shadows/Vamperella cross-over, which teamed vampire Barnabas Collins and werewolf Quinton Collins with Vamperella and Panthra, Andreyko is returning to Collinwood for a six part retelling of the famous 1795 storyline in Dark Shadows: Year One. Outlining the beginnings of the Collins family curse and Barnabas’ earliest days as a vampire, Dark Shadows: Year One is a story of passion, betrayal, sadness, horror and dark magic. But as a story that has been told multiple times throughout Dark Shadows fandom, what more can still be said about the events of 1795. Marc Andreyko feels that there is a lot more to be told, and wants to put a new spin on a classic tale for old time fans, and give new fans a six issue history lesson about the roots of Dark Shadows.
Sam Tweedle: I was really pleased to see that there was a second Dark Shadows book coming out from Dynamite Entertainment.
Marc Andreyko: Yeah. I’m really excited to do it. It’s fun.
Sam: Are you a long time Dark Shadows fan?
Marc: Oh yeah. I used to watch it when I came home from kindergarten. I watched the reruns on TV back in the 70’s.
Sam: Dark Shadows has become a “boutique” franchise. What attracted you to this project?
Marc: Well, like I said, I was always a big fan of it as a kid. There was all sorts of nostalgia for it, so it was something that I approached Dynamite about saying “How about doing a Year One,” not realizing that doing a Year One would involve condensing over a hundred episodes into a six issue comic book series.
Sam: Let’s start by talking about last year’s Dark Shadows/Vamperella series you wrote. I absolutely loved it. I thought it was one of the truly fun books to come out in 2012.
Marc: Oh? There was one web-site that just called for my head.
Sam: Really? It was one of my favorite books last year.
Marc: I approached the Dan Curtis people and Dynamite about Dark Shadows and Vamperella by saying “These characters are so diametrically different that they’ve got to talk to each other. “ There’s got to be the humor in it. Not to make it jokey, but Barnabas would be horrified by the costume Vamperella wears, and she would be horrified by how uptight and Downton Abbey he is. My only regret is that I didn’t get to tell that story set in the 70’s. I defiantly wanted to have them go to Studio 54 and Pluto’s Retreat and do all that weird sexual stuff that was going on. But I had a really good time writing it. I thought that it was an out of continuity type of story, but I thought I’d embrace the ridiculousness of it and address it, but not in a snarky way, but a way that makes sense. Having Panthra and Quinton be totally hot for each other was a happy accident.
Sam: I found it interesting that often Quinton was wearing less clothes then Vamperella.
Marc: Yeah. I’d love to do a Quinton and Panthra miniseries with them going on a date or something.
Sam: So what was some of the negative feedback you heard about the series?
Marc: Well, that one Dark Shadows web-site said that it was obscene and filthy and didn’t make any sense and it was some of the worst Dark Shadows ever. Well actually, I am a big fan of the series and I didn’t do anything to mock it or make fun of it.
Sam: Now I am going to be honest with you. I originally thought the idea of having the villains be Elizabeth Bathory and Jack the Ripper was a bit over the top, but you completely made that team up work as well.
Marc: Well when you do a series like that, you want the villains to not be villains that are necessarily devoted to one or the other [protagonists]. It’s not like having Batman and Spider-Man team up and having them fight The Joker and The Green Goblin. Vamperella has very few marquee villains, and Dark Shadows was more about the character bits then Barnabas fighting a bad guy. I also wanted to do a story that if you knew a little bit about Dark Shadows and a little bit about Vamperella then you knew what was going on. I had fun with it, but the internet is great because people will tell you how bad you are, but it also tells you how good you are. It all balances out.
Sam: Now in Dark Shadows: Year One are you showing something that the television series never showed before, or are you just rehashing the classic 1795 storyline?
Marc: Well, it’s not a reboot, but it’s sort of streamlining and fixing and making [the story] make more sense dramatically. When you have a half hour a day, five days a week, you have a lot of time to fill, and then you have [the writers] retroactively adding to the origin as the story progresses. There’s so many characters that are involved, and I am trying to give all of the characters their due, but there are going to be changes and cuts and things that are going to be altered for the sake of making more sense and making it a more interesting story. If you treat every single word as gospel it’s just inert to try to do this. The Dan Curtis people have been really great about that. They’ve encouraged me to not tell a story exactly the way as it exists. Play with it. There’s been a lot of creative freedom to alter things and to make dramatic action a little clearer. Some of the characters won’t be appearing at all because it doesn’t really add to this story. When you only have a hundred and twenty pages to tell a story over six issues it’s hard to delve into the minutia of every single character.
Sam: To fans the continuity of Dark Shadows is fairly fleshed out. The TV series obviously did long storylines, and Lara Parker wrote some great books fleshing out the background of the stories. What are you specifically doing to enhance this continuity?
Marc: Well, like I said, it’s a matter of putting a story out there that is true to the original show, but makes it feel a little bit more accessible for the people who haven’t seen all of Dark Shadows and where all of Barnabas’ motivations come from.
Sam: You mentioned that you are making changes. Can you give an example of the type of changes that you make?
Marc: Well, one of the changes I made was during the duel between Barnabas and Jeremiah. In the actual show Barnabas was enchanted by Angelique to kill Jeremiah. Well, it just felt more dramatically interesting if Angelique actually enchants Jeremiah to fall in love with her, and he challenges Barnabas. Barnabas is our lead character, and if he gets enchanted it makes him passive. Having Barnabas be of clear mind and having to go through with this duel and to have to kill his best friend and Uncle makes it feel more tragic and more dramatically interesting. It just makes more sense.
Sam: Are you not scared of the diehard Dark Shadows fans that are going to be offended with the tweaks that you’ve made to the original story?
Marc: Well I had the blessing of the Dan Curtis people, so these changes are arbitrary changes. It’s not me saying “I want to do my version.” It’s me doing all the research, and reading all the synopsis and watching the show, and wanting to make the book make sense dramatically because, once again, you don’t have three hours a week to play with all this stuff. I just think, as a fan of Dark Shadows, more sense. It makes Barnabas’ rage towards Angelique more active.
Sam: Who are some of the characters that we are going to see in this series?
Marc: You’re going to see a lot. In the first issue alone you’ve got Barnabas, Jeremiah, Angelique, Josette, The Countess, Sara, Naomi and Joshua. We’re going to see Reverend Trask and Natalie and Millicent and Daniel and Ben Stokes and Nathan Forbes, and Victoria Winters too.
Sam: So Victoria Winters is in it!
Marc: Yes, but I’m not going to have any flash forwards of Victoria Winters being sent through time. She’s just going to be this girl that has visions and that everybody thinks is a witch. If you have to explain Victoria Winters, it wouldn’t make sense in the story that I’m trying to tell. To have the 70’s appear in this book feels like putting onions on a peanut butter sandwich. It raises so many problems and narrative questions that I just don’t have the time. And having Victoria be this girl that has visions and is befuddled and confused just works well in this story. I’m not saying that she is not from the 70’s, but I’m not going into her story, because it isn’t her story. With some of these characters it’s like if you pull a piece of thread that suddenly your sweater turns into a ball of yarn.
Sam: Who are your favorite Dark Shadows characters to write for?
Marc: Well Angelique is fun because she is just such a bitch. She is just such a horrible monster. She’s great. Joshua is a lot of fun to write for as well. He brings a lot of heart to the story because of his love for his family. So many horrible things happen to this family in such a short period of time and his love for his son, and to try to comprehend the real world and the world of vampirism and magic is really interesting. I think Ben Stokes is a really wonderful character. The best friend of the lead is often more interesting of the lead. Barnabas has turned out to be an interesting character to write because writing him as a human and in this place where he is is interesting. Barnabas doesn’t actually become a vampire until the end of the second issue, so there is a lot of the human Barnabas and what his internal conflicts are and what his personality is. He is trying to please everyone, and is serving every master except himself. The first born sons always carries his baggage, and that’s a really interesting thing to explore.
Sam: Will you be doing more Dark Shadows projects in the future?
Marc: I’m not the person to ask about that. That’s up to Dynamite. I would love to revisit this world. I’d love to do a sequel to Dark Shadows/Vamperella. I think that’d be lots of fun. I’d like to do a Quinton Collins miniseries. I think Quinton is such a cool character because he is kind of goofy and kind of suave at the same time. He’s kind of the perfect combination of the Daniel Craig James Bond, and the Roger Moore one. He has a sense of humor and a sense of fun, and he is the perfect foil for Barnabas because Barnabas is so serious and so tormented and so angsty. But he also lightens Barnabas up. When Barnabas calls him “A good dog” it bring out a side of Barnabas that Barnabas doesn’t get to show very often. But we’re in an economy where it all depends on sales.
Sam: And being a niche franchises makes it more difficult for mass sales.
Marc: Well I think once the collections are out, I think the Dark Shadows fans will be able to find it a bit more easily. Going into a comic book store and getting the one thing you want every month can often be difficult. Once the collections come out you know you have the whole story. Dark Shadows/Vamperella will be out in a collection soon, and I think the first Dark Shadows trade paperback is out now.
Although Marc Andreyko plays fast and loose with the continuity of the television series, Dark Shadows: Year One is an excellent retelling of the 1795 story, providing new insights into the emotional motives of Barnabas, Joshua, Josette and Angelique. It becomes a fun retrospective for fans, with welcomed dashes of humor that wasn’t present in the melodramatic tone of the original series, and plays as an origin story to new fans just cutting their teeth on Dark Shadows as a result of the current revivals of the franchise. However, the biggest treat is the book’s art by Guiu Vilanova. From Barnabas’ tortured scowl to Angelique’s penetrating stare, Vilanova captures the likenesses and expressions of the characters perfectly. Dark Shadows: Year One is a perfect mixture of pathos and playfulness, and could possibly be one of the most important Dark shadow comics ever produced.